Chuck Shepherd Thursday, June 4, 2015 0

California State University-Los Angeles researcher Marc Kubasak spent 2,500 hours training 40 brain-damaged rats to walk on a treadmill. He sewed little vests on the rats to tether them to a robotic arm. His work paid off, according to the February Popular Science magazine. Doctors in Poland and University College London used his procedures to help a man with a damaged spine. In the middle of the project, Kubasak developed a rodent allergy and was forced to wear a body suit every day.


Microwave Wallet For 45 Seconds

Mohammed Almarri, 21, was arrested on multiple charges in Tampa on April 12 after he illegally entered a neighbor’s apartment in a high-rise and forced the owner onto the balcony. For reasons undisclosed in the police report, Almarri then microwaved the man’s wallet in his oven.


And Yet Another Enema Bandit

Joseph Williams, 35, and with several warrants pending against him, was arrested on April 5 in Fort Pierce, Fla., after he entered the emergency room at the Lawnwood Regional Medical Center and Heart Institute, demanded an enema and refused to leave until he got one.



Former Virginia state Delegate Joseph Morrissey was already scheduled for trial for submitting false documents. He was foiled in a March qualifying bid for a state Senate primary because 750 of the 972 voter signatures he submitted were found to be bogus. Morrissey was sworn in as delegate in January while he was wearing an ankle monitor as part of his sentence for having sex with an underage girl. He had resigned from his delegate’s position to run for the Senate.


Remembrance Technology

— In March, the U.S. patent office approved Google’s application covering robot software that mimics human voices, mannerisms and moods, such as happiness, fear and surprise. One proposal is that family members could employ the technology to continue to “interact” with a loved one after he’s died.

— A curious woman, who was inspired by her own mother’s attachment to her dead father’s pillowcases, has partnered with France’s Universite du Havre to produce a bottled scent of a person by processing old clothing. A September rollout is planned, with a probable retail price of about $600.


Democracy In Action

Just west of Ferguson, Mo., is Kinloch (pop. 299), where newly elected mayor Betty McCray was unable to start work on April 23 because the losing administration locked her out of City Hall. Representatives of the former administration said they were “impeaching” McCray for “voter fraud” in the election. St. Louis County election officials had already certified her victory. Of McCray’s two predecessors, one was once locked out of his office by police, and the other had to go to court to get his mayoral job back after admitting he had missed child-support payments.


Is This A Great Country Or What?

The owner of a New York City condominium apartment that sold for $100 million recently received a property tax reduction of $360,000, and is likely to keep receiving reductions over as many as 25 years based on “Section 421-a” benefits the state enacted to encourage “affordable” housing in the most desirable parts of New York City. The tax abatements are available to developers that promise to create “affordable” units to families making under about $40,000 annually. But in recent years, the new “millionaire” units (with tax breaks) have outnumbered the new “affordable” units 11-to-1, according to a February New York Times report. The breaks for wealthy families cost the city more than $1 billion a year in revenue.


Bright Ideas

— Prison breaks in Latin American countries are often staged by corrupt guards. But the escape by 28 inmates in February from the Nova Mutum prison near Cuiaba, Brazil, was engineered by “dominatrixes” in police costumes, who playfully handcuffed the guards and knocked them out with sedatives, then unlocked the cells. The guards were found the next day, handcuffed and naked.

— In March, two purchases of stock options were executed so quickly that experts consulted for a analysis said they couldn’t possibly have been made by human securities traders. Their conclusion: Somewhere there is a robot so intelligent that it can “read” a news wire report, “analyze” it for hints about a company’s future price and execute the order before human traders even finish reading the news report. Profits on the super-fast trades were $2.4 million on one and “between $1 million and $2 million” on the other.


Leading Economic Indicators

— In the face of jokes about proliferating airline charges, the British economy line easyJet added another fee recently. If easyJet, on its own, cancels a flight, it charges a fee of 10 British pounds — $15 — to notify third parties. The airline said that even though its own decision created the issue, it must nonetheless cover its costs to provide cancellation notices to passengers who miss connections or who need to provide verification to collect on private travel-interruption insurance.

— Counting only the pool of bonus money (not regular salaries), employees of New York securities industries earned twice as much in 2014 as the total income paid to all employees in the United States who worked full time at the federal minimum wage ($7.25 an hour). The statistic, from a report by the Institute for Policy Studies, was featured in a March New York Times analysis.


Suspicions Confirmed

Two airport screeners at Denver International collaborated in an ongoing ploy in which one, a male, signaled to a female colleague that he had spotted an attractive male passenger in line that he might like to grope. The female would then suddenly notice an “anomaly” in the screening and ask that passenger to stand aside so that the male agent could “inspect” him further. The two agents were fired in February after a Transportation Security Administration investigator who had been alerted to the scheme observed it in action.


The Redneck Chronicles

— Austin Hatfield, 18, reported to an emergency room in April after being bitten on the lip by a venomous cottonmouth viper in Wimauma, Fla. According to a fish and wildlife commission spokesman, Hatfield had caught the snake and was keeping it in an ordinary pillowcase on his bed. When it got out, Hatfield tried to recapture it. (The bite was not fatal.)

— According to witnesses questioned by the Jacksonville, Fla., Sheriff’s Office after shots were reported at Murphy’s Express Gas station, one customer had fired at another, hitting him in the foot, because he felt the customer was staring at him while he pumped gas.


Weird News Classic:  Feb. 2011

David Morice, of Iowa City, Iowa, who is a teacher at Kirkwood Community College, was best known for his series of Poetry Comics. Then in 2010, he decided to write a 100-page poem every day for 100 days until he had a book totaling 10,000 pages. The University of Iowa Libraries published the finished book online and in a two-foot-high hard copy.


Marital Enhancements

Saudi Arabia’s very first sex accessory shop should be opening soon in the holy city of Mecca. It will be operated by a Moroccan Muslim; backed by the German adult mega-retailer Beate Uhse; and — supposedly — fully compliant with Islamic law. Owner Abdelaziz Aouragh told Agence France-Presse he would stock 18 different Islam-appropriate toys for married couples, along with oils and fragrances that he said would enhance the marital experience. He did not actually describe the toys. But he ruled out U.S. mainstays, such as inflatable dolls and vibrators. One such “halal” sex shop opened in Turkey in 2013. Aouragh’s financial partner runs a similar enterprise online.


Animals In The News

— In a February science journal report, a University of Regensburg (Germany) professor noted that ants seem particularly orderly, with latrine facilities placed in far corners of the nests. The researcher speculated that ants keep feces on hand in order to mine nutrients.

— A local logger telephoned the Agder Natural History museum in Kristiansand, Norway, to report that he had encountered a beaver that had been crushed to death because it was unable to judge which way the tree it was gnawing would fall. Usually, beavers have an uncanny ability to avoid the tree. But some stragglers still populate their gene pool.


The Continuing Crisis

The February gun-and-baby-carrying workshop in Johnston, Iowa, was so successful that instructor Melody Lauer and CrossRoads Shooting Sports owner Tom Hudson planned more. Lauer insisted that she does not necessarily encourage a baby-holding mother to arm herself. But if she chooses to, safety would of course require that she be familiar with the tricky procedure of drawing, aiming and firing even though she might be wearing a baby in a sling in front of her body. Hudson notes the fast-growing market of gun sales to women. She said scheduling the workshop “was a no-brainer.”


Least Competent Criminals

Nikko Jenkins, who was convicted of murder in a 2013 spree, was trying to avoid a sentencing hearing. He mutilated himself, then told a judge in Omaha, Neb., that the behavior was evidence of a mental disorder that should render him ineligible for death row. Jenkins told the judge that a “serpent god” had ordered him to carve the “number of the beast” into his forehead. Apparently Jenkins was looking into a mirror as he carved. His forehead display more resembled an upside-down 999 (or a lowercase ddd) than it did 666.


Weird Gang

What is believed to be America’s only hard-nosed gang composed only of gay and transgendered African-Americans hopes to have its story told by filmmakers. The filmmakers emphasize the group’s transition from fighters to entrepreneurs working to establish their own clothing line, according to a March report on The gang was originally organized for protection. “We gonna get our respect one way or another,” said one. The group is based in the violent Washington, D.C., Trinidad neighborhood. Some of its 200 members, who are in their teens or early 20s, insist on wearing stilettos, lipstick and mascara while carrying knives, brass knuckles and mace.


Questionable Judgments

Pioneering British facial surgeon Ninian Peckitt, 63, faced a Medical Practitioners Tribunal in Manchester when he was was accused by a witness of repeatedly having punched one patient in the face during a procedure in order to straighten a fracture. Peckitt acknowledged having used his hands to “manipulate” bones in the patient’s face, calling it a routine surgery-avoiding procedure sometimes required for extensive injuries.